We’ve played with quite a fair amount of keyboards here at Nasi Lemak Tech – and we’ve come across many different switches that are available in the market. However, they’re all binary switches – meaning they only turn on or off. ZOWIE, being an eSports-centric brand that they always have been, created the Celeritas II. It has a few interesting design choices – including the usage of Flaretech optical switches.
We asked ZOWIE for many information regarding the Celeritas II’s details in terms of engineering, and we will be explaining it one by one.
Let’s start off with something much simpler. Taking a look at the box itself, the Celeritas II takes on a typical ZOWIE packaging design where everything is black, and only the some outlines are in printed in glossy ink. Packaging design is very minimal, by the way.
Opening up reveals that the Celeritas II is packed in two separate pieces of large foam with about 2cm or so off the box floor. The Celeritas II comes with a plastic cover by the way – which protectors the keys themselves from damages during transport, and to prevent dust from entering while not using.
In terms of accessories, the Celeritas II comes with a USB to PS/2 converter too. It does serve a purpose here, and we’ll talk more about it later. It also comes with a case badge that has 3M adhesive behind. Other than that, there’s a user guide and a warranty card.
When it comes to design, the Celeritas II is really, really simple. It’s blacked out and UV coated all throughout the keyboard, has only red backlight (with some blueish white LEDs) and the ZOWIE logo at the bottom.
Of course, ZOWIE is a brand that’s focused on eSports only and they created the Celeritas II with meticulous design choices.
Firstly, the distraction-free design and finishing that ZOWIE chose. The UV coating used suppresses its reflections, and thus the keyboard looks quite dark. However, UV coating also means that it’s highly susceptible to grease. In other words, it’s a fingerprint magnet. If your fingers ever got greasy from sweat or from your face, then it’s going to show on the keyboard.
You can use those facial oil filter paper to mitigate some of these grease marks.
On most other keyboards, there are adjustable feet to change the keyboard’s angle – but ZOWIE replaced it with 4 long strips of friction pads instead. It does help the keyboard stay in place at times of excitement.
Which brings us to the next design choice that ZOWIE made for the Celeritas II – the angle. Since it doesn’t have adjustable feet, the keyboard is much more stable but stuck at only one angle. Once again, ZOWIE has proven themselves right as the keyboard has a slight slope and a built-in wrist rest to ensure comfort while using the Celeritas II for both gaming and typing.
The last design choice that I realized is the lack of indicator LEDs – or any lighting effects for that matter. On most keyboards in the market, there are LEDs to indicate caps lock, num lock, and also scroll lock. On the Celeritas II, it changes the red backlight on these keys to white instead. The backlight is only in multiple brightness levels of red and there are zero lighting effects to choose from other than static.
The cable here isn’t detachable and its cable sleeve is fairly thin. So, do handle it with care.
The Flaretech Optical Switch
The ZOWIE Celeritas II has a lot of tiny little engineering details that makes it special. We’ll definitely have to dive into these details and explain it one by one – because I’m just geeked out by these feats.
The Flaretech optical switch uses light as the transmission medium – hence the term “optical”. Captain Obvious, I know. Perhaps what you didn’t know is that the Flaretech optical switch is an analog switch. As shown in the animation below, when the switch is pressed, the prism moves down and reflects the light down into the receiver. As the prism moves further down, the receiver gets more light. Essentially, it’s the same concept as pressure-sensitive switches like the shoulder triggers on Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PS4 controllers.
ZOWIE decided to disable the analog functionality on the Celeritas II – but there is a good reason for that. ZOWIE is able to tune the firmware itself to detect where is the brightness threshold to “turn on” the switch and register a key press. After that, ZOWIE can also tune the firmware to decide the brightness threshold on when the key is no longer pressed or “turned off”.
However, the Celeritas II doesn’t allow the users to tune the thresholds. It’s a plug-and-play and everything else works by just using the Fn key on the keyboard. Hence, the firmware is locked down and does not allow any sort of custom settings to be done to the keyboard.
On binary switches like Cherry MX, Kailh, Gateron, Razer, and Outemu just to name a few, these switches detects key press by electrical signals. The detection method is either the electrical flow is “on” or “off” – essentially functioning as a binary switch.
Why Flaretech Opical Switches?
The reason is simple – it can prevent accidental double keystrokes. How? We did mention that the key switch can have tuneable thresholds to detect a key is pressed or not pressed. For example, the firmware could be tuned to be detected as “pressed” when the intensity is at 50%, but only detected as “unpressed” at 30% intensity.
In conventional binary switches, you can accidentally trigger few keystrokes if the key is pressed and the metal leaf is hovering near the contact. By converting an analog switch to function like a binary switch, it offers a lot more flexibility.
The Celeritas II has a few features despite it being a driverless keyboard. It covers most of the basics, actually. From F1 till F6, it has volume controls, play/pause and even previous and next track buttons.
Both F7 and F8 controls the brightness of the backlight. As mentioned earlier, the Celeritas II only comes in red LED backlighting and there are no other lighting effects other than static.
From F9 to F12, these are repeat rates. You’ll need to connect the Celeritas II using the included USB to PS/2 converter for it to function. Though, that’s not the only reason why ZOWIE included the converter in the first place.
Notable feature of PS/2 interface includes guaranteed registered keystrokes, no need for external drivers and achieving true NKRO without any need of device emulation. Using the PS/2 interface is optional, but it does comes in handy for eSports players that actually performs better using PS/2 instead of USB.
The features on the Celeritas II are sufficient to be used for everyday life – including typing and gaming on the same keyboard. By pressing Fn + Left Windows key, you can change the left Windows key to become Control key too. Essentially, you’ll have two Ctrl keys side by side.
Using the ZOWIE Celeritas II
The entire keyboard is a full-sized keyboard and I adapted to its shape and angles very quickly. When ZOWIE said that they have done proper research and gathered feedback from professional players to create the most comfortable keyboard, they’re not joking. Of course, it still boils down to personal preference – just that the Celeritas II is suited for more people.
However, ZOWIE chose to use a big enter key, which made the right shift key smaller and displaced the backslash key. It’s an odd choice, and it definitely affected my typing experience as I use the right shift key. Though, I did adapt to it easily. Within 5 minutes, I was typing back at my usual speed in the 10 Fast Fingers typing test. Bottoming out the key does create sort of an echo sound, as the switches inside is actually quite hollow.
During my long hours of continuous usage, grease marks did show up on the Celeritas II, and it actually created something like a heatmap on where my hands usually are. The Esc key and the area below the right Alt key is in different color as I sweated during my usage. Also, the area around the navigation cluster is covered in grease too – goes to show how much I actually use the Del and End key.
And of course, gaming experience. For me, because of the Flaretech optical switch used here is linear, it feels really similar to a Cherry MX Nature White switch – not to confuse with Cherry MX Clear switch. 55g of force, to be exact, but with faster bounce back time. I’m more of a Cherry MX Red person now, but it’s understandable why some would prefer 55g instead of 45g.
How about gaming experience?
We’ve talked about how ZOWIE implemented the Flaretec optical switch here is finely tuned to ensure the best gaming experience one can have. By converting an analog switch to function as a binary switch through firmware magic, the Celeritas II can definitely be the keyboard for CSGO or PUBG. Why? Because you won’t accidentally double-tap if it is unintentional.
Also, the Celeritas II can be the go-to keyboard for MOBA or MMORPG games like Dota 2 and World Of Warcraft as well. Remember that when you plug the Celeritas II in using PS/2 adapter, you can use the repeat rate feature. That can definitely help you to spam item usage during boss raids or spamming skills to be unleashed on your enemies. With 8x repeat rate, you can actually virtually achieve zero time wasted after your skill has finished cooldown.
Wrapping up the ZOWIE Celeritas II review
It’s no doubt that the Celeritas II is a plain keyboard with no flashy lights. Together with our friends at Tech Critter, we took a look at the ZOWIE XL2546 – a no-frills monitor that packs lots of features to improve your fast-paced viewing experience. ZOWIE only means performance and zero distraction – which does translate well to the Celeritas II.
The Celeritas II’s fully blacked out look that has only red LEDs and variable brightness means that the keyboard means serious business. There aren’t even any lighting effects to choose from because they’re distracting. Key presses are magnificent for eSports – they’re stiff enough to bounce back up quickly and primed for another key press.
All in all, the ZOWIE Celeritas II is indeed a keyboard made for eSports. Typing is fine, but its true selling point is its reliability in gaming.
For the price of RM549 or USD $129.99, the price is hefty – but you do get lots of intricate engineering feats that fuel a better user experience for eSports.